How do I deal with a Micro-Manager?

How do I deal with a Micro-Manager?

We received this email from a reader about her current work environment. We think her situation is not an isolated one, so we have decided to post it here (with her permission) in the hopes that others may benefit from our suggestions.

Dear Sarah and Alicia,

Thanks for writing the article “4 Signs You’re a Micro Manager and How to Stop” which was featured last week in my newspaper.

However, while I completely agree with everything you said, I fear that people who need to read this won’t even recognize themselves. I work for a 150% micro manager… and unfortunately… I don’t think she’d see herself in any one of the points… but you nailed her to a “t”… I can give you examples of each point with her.

I have worked for her for nearly 9 months and I’ve been trying to leave the last 6. It’s frustrating to work for a person like this, and since I am an “anti-micro manager” I am her complete opposite, and it’s now causing health issues for me.

The only saving grace is that I work from a home office and I don’t have contact with her every day, but you can bet when I do, she lets me know what a worthless employee I am to her. She actually asked if I was doing things wrong on purpose. Can you image? I am a seasoned manager myself! She’s also an equal opportunity micro manager… she doesn’t pick and choose favorites… she treats everyone like a child and an idiot.

So, it would be great to hear your advice about those of us who have to endure this sort of behavior from a supervisor. I’d love to leave, but can’t find a place to jump ship, so I’m stuck with this woman.

Thanks for identifying this behavior… it’s out there… in full force!

Dear Anonymous:
We feel for you! Bad bosses/micro-managers are hard to deal with. Before we started our own venture, pretty much every one of us at Buttoned Up worked for one at one point or another.

First things first, you have to remember these two things:
• Yes, the extreme option is to quit – but know that there are micromanagers everywhere. So use this as an opportunity to figure out how to work around or defuse a micromanager’s disruptive behavior.
• You cannot “fix” a micromanager or force them to change. So stop focusing on “them” and “what they are doing to you.” Instead focus on what you can control: how you react to her/interpret her actions and your ability to influence her demoralizing, disruptive behavior.

We know you want to keep your job and that makes it hard to respond in a challenging manner. Happily there are definitely some things you can do to get through to your micro-manager boss!

1. Confirm, confirm, confirm

Whenever you are given a task or assignment from her, always reiterate back to her what she wants and ask if you understand her correctly. You can couch it in “Just so I understand the end product you want…” or “I have the due date on this as X, is that correct?” or “Let me go over my notes quickly with you and let me know if I’m missing anything…”and ask specific questions if possible. This way you are showing her you are engaged in the assignment and intend on doing a good job.

If your manager tries to put you down for this, or calls you stupid, your response should always be, “I just want to make sure I do the assignment the way you want, in the time frame you want.” Or “I hardly think it is stupid to make sure I understand the assignment fully, so I can meet your expectations. Please do not call me that again; it is demeaning and totally uncalled for as well as unprofessional.” Adding, ‘would you rather I didn’t check with you now and miss something?’ clearly puts the onus back on her and lets her know how her attitude makes you feel.

2. Give (frequent) status updates.

If your manager is one that asks you for something before the due date, it can be one of the most frustrating things – you never feel the pleasure of giving her a finished product before she asks for it! By sending daily email updates to her with “ASSIGNMENT UPDATE” in the subject line, you can hopefully head her off before she asks you the status, or sits behind you while you finish the job. Trust us, by giving an update, you will not stop her from asking for the status; but it allows you the freedom to tell her you are well into the project, per your email, and will have by the due date or the date you mentioned in your email. Or you can contact her in the morning and tell her that you will give her an update by noon, or some time that is fitting for the task.

3. Pick Your Battles!

The micromanager will go to war on every issue. Don’t try to match her on every one. Instead, pick the battles that are most important to you.

We hope these help you figure out how to navigate your current environment better. There’s nothing worse than feeling trapped AND miserable. And again, remember, it’s not about changing the micromanager – but changing your reaction to her – that will make all the difference.

Please keep us posted on your progress!

All the best,
Sarah & Alicia